NCET helps you explore business and technology
By Dave Archer
The New Year will arrive in a few days, so consider these resolutions for your business for 2018:
This is the most fundamental item needed by any business. You wouldn’t drive to Florida without a map, or put an addition on your house without a blueprint, or even bake a cake without a recipe, and you shouldn’t have a business without a business plan. It’s your “road map” to business success.
For many people, a business plan conjures up a vision of a 100-page, professionally-printed, spiral-bound, full-color document. In reality, business plans – like small business owners and entrepreneurs – come in many shapes and sizes, and your format will depend on how you’re going to use it. What’s most important is the process by which you create your plan.
As General Eisenhower said when preparing for the Normandy landings on D-Day, “Plans are nothing, planning is everything;” and most of a business plan’s value comes from the thought process you go through while writing it. If you need help with your plan, the Nevada’s Small Business Development Center’s NxLeveL program is one of the best ways to create a world-class plan.
Your marketing plan can be either a part of your business plan or a standalone document. In either case, your marketing plan helps you understand your product and services, your customers and competitors, and how you’re going to advertise and sell your products and services. As with your business plan, you should revisit and revise your marketing plan on a regular basis.
Find New Revenue Sources AND Control Your Expenses
A successful business owner focuses on both revenue and expenses and tries to ensure there’s more of the former than the latter. If you have a restaurant, for example, can you generate more revenue by driving more lunch traffic by offering daily specials? Can you reduce expenses by reducing the number of breakfast items and thus your inventory costs? Resolve to look for new revenue opportunities and to review every penny you spend to find ways to save.
These are closely related to your revenue and expenses resolution. You can’t evaluate your expenses and revenues unless you’re able to run understandable and actionable reports. QuickBooks, for example, provides a wide range of reports, but you must know what to ask for. And, your books need to be accurate and in order, but that’s a whole separate set of resolutions.
Network, Network, Network!
Networking is an effective way to meet dozens and even hundreds of potential new customers, usually just for the cost of a breakfast or lunch. Reno has a huge number of networking opportunities, with professional groups focused on a variety of specific business sectors, along with general business groups such as The Chamber, EDAWN, NCET (of course…) and my personal favorite, WIN. Remember that effective networking involves building relationships with the people you meet, rather than just handing out and collecting as many business cards as possible.
Social media is a very inexpensive way to promote your business. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest and other services allow you to promote your business in a very cost-effective way. Many local organizations, including NCET, offer free or low-cost workshops on social media.
Consider finding a mentor or enrolling in a mentorship program. You can find mentors at our local SCORE chapter, Entrepreneurs Assembly and Summit VMS. Another option is to join a formal “peer advisory group” such as the Entrepreneurs’ Organization or Vistage, which provide the opportunity to meet regularly with other business owners or executives.
Board of Advisors
Most small companies are started by someone who’s very good at something, such as accounting, photography or Web design. That same person, however, might not be as good at finance, marketing or legal matters. While “Board of Advisors” may conjure up an image of people in expensive suits sitting around a marble conference table in an oak-paneled room, in reality, it might be a few people sitting around your kitchen table.
The role of your advisors is simple: to give you someone to bounce ideas off and to provide advice and feedback. Having a second opinion can be very valuable, so you should select a board of advisors with backgrounds different than yours. If you’re an engineer, find a marketing person. If you’re a Web designer, find someone with a financial background. You need people who will be completely honest with you, so avoid friends, family or your spouse, as they might hesitate to be completely candid.
Good luck with all your resolutions, and best wishes for a successful 2018!
Dave Archer is President/CEO of NCET, a member-supported non-profit that produces educational and networking events to help people explore businesses and technology.